Throughout their lives men health compares badly to that of women and the statistics concerning the health of men in the UK make uncomfortable reading:
- 45% of men are overweight
- 1/3 of men are clinically obese
- 7/8 of men have at least one risk factor for heart disease and strokes
- Twice as many men than woman drink above the maximum recommended alcohol level
- 25% of men have high blood pressure
- Indian, Bangladeshi, Black Caribbean and Irish men are at a greater risk of heart disease and strokes
- Men in the north are generally less healthy than men in the south of the country. In 2003 men in Blackpool had the shortest life expectancy.
- Men are less likely to visit the doctor when they are ill and less likely to report the symptoms of disease or illness. This inevitably means that their condition has worsened when they eventually decide to seek a diagnosis.
- Men show a greater propensity to kill themselves either directly by suicide or indirectly by drinking, smoking and increased risk taking.
Given the apparent substantial availability of women health screening and being in a climate where equality is sought for all, the whole area of men health needs to be carefully evaluated. In 1992 the Chief Medical Officer acknowledged that the health of men in the UK was a cause for concern. However the UK is not alone in this. In Oct 2005 the Vienna Declaration on the Health of Men and Boys in Europe issued a direct call to the World Health Organization, the European Commission, national governments and providers of healthcare to take account of the needs of men health.
Men, must become more responsible for their own good health and well being. If a man was a car would his body pass the MOT? is a favourite analogy.
Part of healthy living is to break free from bad habits. Here are 11 tips to good health:
- Do not smoke
- Cut calories, limit fat, sugar and salt.
- Add fibre and eat more complex carbohydrates.
- Practise moderation in all things.
- Exercise regularly- it doesn't matter what exercise you do or where you do it - its activity on a regular basis that is important.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise the mind. Learn something new ; take up a new hobby, read and then learn how to relax.
- Develop a positive attitude to life. Learn to laugh at petty annoyances. Keep things in proportion.
- Monitor your health. See the doctor about any worrying symptoms and do a self-examination monthly.
- Brush the teeth, tongue and roof of the mouth. Visit the dentist regularly.
- Get enough sleep. Experts believe that we need between 7 and 10 hours depending on our genetic predisposition.
Men can be reluctant users of the health service who make poor use of preventative services and tend to avoid the doctors unless they are in significant pain or an illness becomes too serious to ignore.
Smoking, Alcohol and Drugs
The dangers of smoking, drinking and drug taking are well documented but it is worth re-iterating them.
1. Drinking too much alcohol is responsible for accidents, poor work performance, relationship problems and crime. The recommended daily allowance is no more than 4 units of alcohol per day. 1 unit equates to 1/2 pint of ordinary strength beer or lager,1 small glass of wine or a single pub measure of spirits
2. Every 5 minutes a smoker dies from a smoking related disease.
3. Drugs can cause impotence, fatal heart problems, convulsions, depression, brain damage and hepatitis.
In 2002 the UK had the highest level of drug-related deaths in Europe.
Men Only Cancers
1. Prostate Cancer
The risk of developing this cancer increases with age and it is now the most common cancer in the UK with 6 out of 10 men developing it over the age of 60.
Prostate cancer develops when a single cell in the prostate gland spirals out of control and begins to multiply uncontrollably and forms a tumour. In some men prostate cancer is slow growing and causes few problems but in others the cancer growths more quickly.
The Risk factor
1. Increasing age: The greater the risk the older you are.
2. Family history: The chances of developing prostate cancer are higher if a close relative has at some time been diagnosed with it
3. Ancestry: Prostate cancer is more common in black African men than in white or Asian men
4. Diet: Eating a diet that is low in fish, fruit and vegetables but high in animal fat may increase the risk.
5. Breast cancer: If a close female relative has developed breast cancer at an early age then the risk of prostate cancer may be higher.
If any of the following symptoms are experienced a doctor needs to be consulted.
- Difficulty or pain in passing urine.
- Having to rush to the toilet to pass urine
- Starting and stopping whilst urinating.
- A feeling of not having emptied the bladder fully
- Dribbling urine
- Frequent visits to the toilet particularly during the night.
2. Testicular Cancer
Although testicular cancer is rare there has been a steady increase throughout the years and it is the most common cancer in the 20-34 age range. The good news is that "it is a highly curable illness if detected early" (Prof Alan Horwich - Institute of Cancer Research).
The causes of testicular cancer are unknown but some groups of men are at a higher risk than others.
1. Testicular cancer is more common in men who as boys had a testicle that failed to descend.
2. Inheritance: An inherited gene would explain the instances of fathers/sons/brothers who are affected by this cancer
3. Ancestry: Testicular cancer is more common in white men than in African and Asian men
4. It is more common in wealthier social groups.
If any of the following warning signs are experienced a doctor needs to be consulted.
- A lump or swelling in the testicle/scrotum area.
- Any unusual difference between one testicle and the other.
- Backache, stomach ache or any tenderness in the groin, lower stomach or even the breast.
Early detection by self-examination once a month after a warm bath or a shower means more effective treatment. BE BODY AWARE
Range of useful fact sheets
Health encyclopaedia of symptoms
Patient information sheets
Specialist cancer site
Net Doctor Men Health
Health Main Page
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